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Augsburg Innovation Scholars Present to Mayo Clinic Leaders

The 2023 Augsburg Innovation Scholars team, faculty mentors, and Augsburg leaders pose in front of a fireplace and wood-paneled walls at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.“When we went up there, it was our job to know about everything—the pros, cons, the disease, all of it,” said Connor Thorsten ’24. “As much as public speaking is a fear for a lot of people, we went up with confidence and did a great job.” 

With a who’s who of Mayo Clinic licensing managers and innovators in the audience, Thorsten and his teammates—Tom Erickson ’24, Lorraine Wongbi ’23, and Lily Yang ’23—weren’t just delivering a typical class presentation. Their subject? A challenging biomedical tech transfer project focused on an implantable cardiac med tech device.

The presentation to Mayo Clinic leaders in early March was the culmination of months of study, research, and preparation the students undertook as participants in the Innovation Scholars program. Working at the intersection of science, healthcare, and entrepreneurship, Innovation Scholars brings interdisciplinary teams of outstanding liberal arts students from 12 Minnesota private colleges and universities together to solve real-world problems in real time. 

“It’s one of the best opportunities for students that I’ve seen as far as real-world application and being interdisciplinary,” said Jacob Enger, assistant professor of business administration. Enger served as one of two faculty mentors for Augsburg’s team this year, along with Tim Monko, adjunct instructor in biology. Each group was also paired with an MBA student mentor from Augsburg or the University of St. Thomas. 

Throughout the fall and winter, Augsburg’s team met weekly or more to research the tech transfer project they were assigned by the Mayo Clinic. (Tech transfer refers to the process of moving from research to application and commercialization.) Bringing expertise in biochemistry, biopsychology, finance/accounting, and physics, they tackled questions like: Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it helpful? What is the potential patient population? Who are the competitors? What is the path to finishing product development and bringing it to market? 

“The experience made me more aware of the different moving parts that come into play during the roll-out of an innovation,” said Wongbi. “It really put into perspective the heart and dedication of the inventors, as much of the process requires patience.”

In addition to writing a 40-plus page research paper and preparing the content of their presentation, the team practiced and strengthened their presentation skills, from holding a microphone to taking turns fielding questions. 

“The experience provides such a wide range of areas for students to grow and develop, all with skills they can speak to on a résumé” said Enger. “Students both collaborate and specialize within their area of expertise, whether science or business.” 

While confidentiality agreements limit how much they can share about the project, the Augsburg students came away feeling celebratory. Thorsten, a member of Augsburg’s 2023 national champion wrestling squad, credits teamwork for their success in Rochester. 

“It was one of the best out-of-school, real world experiences I’ve had,” he said. “It was a lot of very hard work—crunch time got very busy—but we divided and conquered, and when one of us was struggling, we focused on helping them and vice versa.”

Students can participate in Innovation Scholars for credit or to fulfill their Augsburg Experience requirement. The application for the next cohort will open in the fall. To find out more, reach out to URGO or visit the Innovation Scholars website

Augsburg Music Professor Wins Entrepreneurship Prize

A white man in a sweater, jeans, and knit hat sits with his arms crossed among keyboards and music recording equipment.Intrigued by the potential of online education, J. Anthony Allen started a small company in 2018 to provide music instruction via the web. It grew organically at first, with a handful of classes and a few licensing agreements with larger platforms.

Then came the pandemic. 

“It was really a question of the right place and the right time,” said Allen, an assistant professor of music, media, and management at Augsburg. Punkademic was already established when the world saw a huge increase in demand for online classes of all kinds in 2020. Today, it serves more than a million students from every corner of the globe. 

Allen entered Punkademic in the prestigious MN Cup entrepreneurship contest earlier this year. The competition, which is based at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Business, provides seed funding and support to emerging entrepreneurs from across the state. His goal was to make it past the first round in order to connect with a mentor from the ed tech world. 

Punkademic did make the first cut. And the next one. In September, it was named a semifinalist for the grand prize and took first place in the Education and Training division. 

Allen plans to invest the $25,000 MN Cup award in marketing and general operating infrastructure for the company, which remains a slim operation despite its explosive growth. Punkademic’s flexible model offers individual class purchases as well as structured courses on a subscription basis. The site’s most popular offerings include courses on music theory, composition, film scoring, sound design, and ear training.    

Allen sees a clear connection between his “side hustle” and his work at Augsburg, where he teaches classes in music business and technology, runs the music production minor, manages Augsburg’s recording studio, and serves as interim music department chair. 

“Teaching is a practice. All of this work online has informed my teaching style and abilities,” he said. “Here in the music business program we also talk about how all of music is an entrepreneurial act in one way or another. 

“For me, Punkademic is proof of that concept.” 

To learn more, visit Punkademic’s website or follow the company on TikTok.

(Photo of J. Anthony Allen by Jade Patrick)

Berglund returns to campus to talk about social entrepreneurship

berglundNext week, Finnegans CEO and co-founder Jacquie Berglund ’87 will return to Augsburg to tell the story of her success to prospective Weekend/Evening College and graduate program students as well as alumni.

This presentation, part of Augsburg’s “In the City” admissions events for prospective students, will be held Wednesday, June 27 in Christensen Center with social hour beginning at 5 p.m.

Berglund, who started Finnegans in 2000, said she loves discovering ways to create community wealth, and she never passes on an opportunity to advise others about how to become social entrepreneurs. She attributes her success to a sound business plan, a lot of hard work, and a little Irish luck. Read more of her story, “Connecting the Dots for Good,” in the Spring 2009 issue of the Augsburg NOW magazine. Continue reading “Berglund returns to campus to talk about social entrepreneurship”